Ciara Lacy, who participated in the museum’s 2015 Sundance ShortsLab and whose debut feature documentary Out of State is playing at this year’s HIFF, is one of the 18 directors tapped to capture the 16 stories in the powerful documentary 11/8/16, screening Nov. 8 at our Doris Duke Theatre. The film follows people across the country as they go about their lives on last year’s election day. Lacy followed Vernon Kimball, and both of them will be at the screening. We asked her some questions.
How did you get involved in 11/8/16?
I was fortunate enough to be recommended to the producer-curator of 11/8/16, Jeff Deutchman, by Anderson Le, a Hawai‘i-bred filmmaker and HIFF programmer. Jeff’s concept for 11/8/16 immediately spoke to me: its collective nature, the snapshot it would provide of our country, and the variety of stories it could tell. My mind began to race with ideas as I thought about what felt relevant to convey about our community and its issues. I carried this with me as I drove through our hometown, viewing the rampant homelessness in the city, edging me towards focusing on this topic.
There are 50 states—why do you think Hawai‘i is one of only 16 to be covered?
Jeff and his colleagues engaged over 50 teams across 27 states to film on last year’s elections, and then took on the massive task of culling all the footage down into a powerfully engaging film. It was truly a Herculean feat, and I think our footage from Hawai‘i provided a different environment and perspective from the other characters featured in the film. The hardship of life outside can erode away at even the most civically minded. How do we keep even those on the margins of our community engaged? It’s an important question for our home and our country to consider.
How did you connect with Vernon Kimball and his family?
Right around the time we filmed for 11/8/16, I was searching for a friend who had fallen into homelessness and was difficult to find. I took to the homeless encampments around town to look for him, which led me to Vernon and Lori. Their kind, humble nature, and their openness drew me to want to work with them.
What did you learn from this experience? Had you previously been knowledgable about houselessness in Hawai‘i, or did making this film open up a new world for you?
Prior to this project, I had spent the last five years working on Out of State, a film about the incarceration of native Hawaiian men. So, I had witnessed first hand the potential and the struggle of reintegration post-incarceration. However, I hadn’t realized how deep the connection between post-incarceration and homelessness was. Not only does Hawai‘i suffer from the highest percentage of homelessness per capita in this country but the factors influencing this homelessness are as varied as the people who find themselves in this situation. Vernon is, unfortunately, one of many struggling to survive after years in jail.
Did making the film influence your thoughts about the US government and election process?
Voting is a privilege, one that I’m proud to do with my husband every year, and the making of this film has only reinforced how important this practice is. 11/8/16 and the turmoil of the last year have made me more invested in politics. The wrong choice truly can turn the tables on even the most stable of communities, and I’m committed to creating a better future for our home.
What parameters/guidelines did Jeff Deutchman give to the filmmakers, or did he let everyone do their own thing?
Jeff was a really trusting producer and curator to work with. I watched his first film, 11/4/08, and was struck with how it recorded an incredible moment in history—the election of Barack Obama—in such a geographically expansive and observational way. For 11/8/16, Jeff wanted to create more of a character-driven piece. This is something I focus on in my own work, so I was excited at the opportunity to be a part of his new project.
Now that a year has passed since 11/8/16, what can audiences take away from looking back to that day, and how does the film help us process it?
Whether you’re a democrat, republican, or otherwise, 11/8/16 is the kind of movie that grabs you and is almost impossible to look away from. It is a remarkable portrait of our country, a sometimes near-shocking reminder of how different we all are, and a wake-up call forcing us to think about the future we all want.